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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

THE RACE-RADICALISM NEXUS

With the nation still trying to cope with the corona virus and just as the devastation to the economy seems to be on the way to improvement, America is steeped in new turmoil initiated by the death of “another unarmed black man” at the hands of police officers, three white, one Asian.  The original focus of the ensuing social protests was police violence against blacks and an alleged general  lack of equal justice for blacks by the country’s law enforcement and judicial agencies. These are the claims  which produced  the name of the most prominent organizing group in the protests, “Black Lives Matter”. Now the original focus  has quickly been expanded to include numerous groups and governmental bodies, into a broad radical agenda of societal upheaval.

The physical circumstances of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the four Minneapolis police officers is not in doubt.  The video of the event speaks for itself.  What occurred before the video started, what possibly motivated the officers to do what they did, must be investigated to achieve a full understanding of the “why?”  But causing the death of a man restrained by handcuffs can’t be justified.

The demands of “Justice for George Floyd” will be met by the criminal justice system itself.  The four officers involved have all been criminally charged and the legal process will be completed through the normal and accepted rules and procedures; but that is not the goal of the nation’s racial activists and the radical Left. The death of George Floyd has now been transformed from a personal tragedy into a tool to be exploited by these ideological and racial extremists.  

The leading organization in that movement, Black Lives Matter, itself is not simply focused only on criminal justice reform,  although that was the  issue stated as the original ,basis for it’s creation, as its web site explains.
“BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. ”

The facts are that there was no police involvement in the death of Trayvon Martin.  He was shot by George Zimmerman a mixed race Hispanic, who was acquitted of murder charges in Florida while defending himself after being attacked by Martin.  There was no evidence submitted at trial that race was a motivating factor in the incident. An investigation by Obama’s Department of Justice found no violations of Martin’s civil rights.

But since then BLM has adopted a much broader,  more militant, public ideological orientation.  Again, from their web site:

“Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy.”
“We foster a queer affirming network.  We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege”

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement”

However, using the public perception of Black Lives Matter as simply i.e. a racial justice organization, fringe ideologues on the radical Left are defending looting and destruction of buildings. Even more extreme are their claims that police departments should be defunded or even abolished, as the recent vote by the Minneapolis City Council intends.  Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti wants to cut funding to the L.A. police department by $150 million and give the money to the “black community”. Left wing school superintendents are removing police “school resource officers” to show their displeasure with police in general and are supporting anti-police activists.  Of course the presence of police officers at schools is intended to protect the children and faculty, a policy widely supported after the rash of school mass shootings in recent years. 

What is obvious are the race based and anti-police tactics of collective guilt and thus collective punishment. “Systemic racism” has become a popular charge even among white Democratic politicians, which is an easy way to claim universality without identifying “ the system” or providing any data to substantiate the claim.  Of course there are racists in the world, they come in all colors and exist in all societies. It’s an unfortunate remnant of tribal mentality. Fortunately, in the U.S. racial extremists are a tiny minority and awareness of racial differences in the general population is mostly cultural and doesn’t substantiate  racial bias in “the system”.  

The individual acts of a very few police officers does not prove racial hostility among all of the nation’s 800,000   officers. In some of the largest urban cities police department  demographics  would indicate otherwise (2013 figures: “Govern.com”): New York City Police Dept.: minorities  48%; black: 16%:   Los Angeles.: 65% minority; black 12% : Chicago: 48% minority; black 25%: : Detroit: 67% minority; 63% black.  

Claims of “white supremacy” and “white privilege” nation wide are vague concepts and essentially themselves racist slogans which too few are willing to challenge and which are distortions of outcomes in social and political status largely based on demographics.  Blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population; the white population is 68%. Disparities in wealth and income have many causes including cultural factors that black intellectuals have identified. Shelby Steele , Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, University cited the “75%” figure for black children born out of wedlock; “no fathers” (6/9/20), as just one important factor, and government dependency as another. He points out that confrontation and violence won’t solve either of these problems. Oft cited imbalances in incarceration rates are  based on imbalances in criminality which improvement in the factors described by Steele would have help ameliorate. 

The protests and marches have quickly become politicized and offer opportunities for politicians at all levels of government for exploitation for their personal benefit. The fact that the country is in the final five months of an election year is a stimulative for these kind of behaviors and has had a serious negative impact.  Since politics is adversarial by nature, the political exploitation adds to the hostility and societal divisiveness that already plague the nation.
 
Democrat House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrat Senate Minority Leader Charles Shumer  made sure to wear their printed version of Kente cloth African attire when  recently announcing a hurried, “knee jerk”, Democrat sponsored federal  “law enforcement reform bill” in an “us against them” theatrical news conference.  The “them” of course is President Trump and the  Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  Protests, rallies and marches also stimulate demagoguery among those who seek status and profit by being self appointed “leaders” among aggrieved groups. Al Sharpton for whom racial conflict is a career, is planning yet another “march on Washington” in which he will be the “drum major” at the head of the mob.  He is no doubt hoping for prime time coverage of conflict with local and federal police which he and sycophantic CNN commentators will brand as evidence of “systemic racism”. Thus the underlying need for clear thinking and conflict resolution is pushed aside and the conflict is perpetuated. 

What is to be done?  A single bill passed by Congress won’t be enough. Inane overreach like attacks on the nation’s police forces will make things worse.  This conflict has been accurately described as a “culture war”.  It is not new and has little to do with the death of George Floyd except as the flash point in a new Leftist offensive in the “war”.  Radical educators in the nation’s public schools and in its universities, have been indoctrinating young adults for generations with anti-social, divisive class warfare, and hostility, towards their government, culture and history. Products of this “education’ in anger, victimization, and divisiveness, inhabit the media in all its forms where “news” has become opinion, and discord and ideological hostility have become the currency of the information market place.  

Honest, realistic, issue oriented leadership is needed from top to bottom in the political establishment and in the nation’s minority communities. Ideological extremism must be opposed and replaced by measured compromise on all sides.  This process might seem to be impossible given the role of the mainstream media and social media  and the access they provide to all angry voices. The radical Left, both in the streets and in politics, riding the heady wave of support by the media and market fearful corporations, are expanding their demands and claims to ever more extreme levels.  Still there is hope. The popular rejection even among the political Left Democrat Party, of Bernie Sander’s social and economic “revolution” indicates a still healthy respect for moderation and stability among a majority of Americans. The majority of American blacks who were gainfully employed and enjoying increased wages in the economic boom prior to the corona virus, and who value the social aspects of traditional family values, might find new leadership and speak up.  Once the excesses of the 2020 election are over, and the inevitable bitterness that will ensue subsides,  perhaps a combination of common purpose and crisis fatigue will lead to some level of conflict resolution.  It will still take enlightened leadership on many sides; academia, media, business and of course politics.  A tall order but the alternatives serve no one.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

MODERATES AND REVOLUTIONARIES: STARK REALITIES

The early election 2020 primaries are finally underway and the operative description so far is “confusion”.   After months of leading in the polls, former Vice President Joe Biden has apparently tripped over his tongue and fallen off the edge of the Progressive’s far Left platform.

After completion of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the Left’s media pundits are promoting the claim of a Bernie Sanders “surge”based on Sander’s victories in both early states.  To be sure, some are casting wary eyes at the rising popularity of another candidate. It’s not the runner up in both contests, junior achiever, former mayor Pete Buttigieg, it’s one of the three billionaires currently in play in the national election;  not Donald Trump, the “evil greedy” billionaire on the Republican ticket; not Tom Steyer, the “good greedy” but quixotic and largely irrelevant  billionaire still in the Democratic race, but the newcomer, the used to be “bad but now trying to be good”, billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg  wasn’t even on the ballots of either Iowa or New Hampshire but campaigned from the outside, spending millions of his billions on television aids.  Although Bloomberg didn’t enter the race until November 21, 2019 long after his Democratic competitors had begun their campaigns, he in three short months, has risen to third in the national polls average with 16.1%
preference,  topping long time candidates Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

Bloomberg has been anointed as the best “moderate” alternative to Bernie, a title formerly bequeathed by the media on Biden, then Buttigieg, and sometimes Klobuchar.  But of course compared to Bernie, anyone to the “right” of, and including, Fidel Castro, who Bernie once praised for his “progressive” social policies, is in relative terms a “moderate”.

Still, Bloomberg has a steep hill to climb to put a dent into the commitment of Sanders’ far Left activist popularity.  His campaign website lists many “plans” but few details and no mention of costs or financing.  But to the Progressive Left, especially the young, he is another “old white male billionaire” who won’t receive the socialist exception for these “oppressive flaws” that the 78 year old Sanders has.  Bernie has always been a political radical while Bloomberg was a Democrat until 2001 when he switched parties to become a Republican.  Then in 2007 he switched again to become a registered Independent, only becoming a “born again” Democrat shortly before declaring his candidacy for the presidency in 2019.   

This checkered past is giving a clearly concerned Sanders an abundance of raw material for attacks on Bloomberg who served three terms as mayor of New York City.  Campaigning in Nevada prior to their caucuses on February 22nd Bernie who has previously attacked Bloomberg’s wealth, added Bloomberg’s pre-Democrat "racism", opposition to a minimum wage increase, opposition to increased taxes on the wealthy and advocating cuts in Medicare and Social Security to Bloomberg’s “moderate”“ heresy.  

Early polls show Bernie likely to win the Nevada caucuses, not surprising given the huge number of service employee union members who work in the state’s hotels and casinos. 
That would give Sanders another boost in his goal of portraying the inevitability of his nomination ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries held in fourteen states on March 3rd.

But Democrats themselves are concerned with how broad Sanders support really is, given his self identification as a “Democratic socialist” and his plans for a “revolutionary change” in the nation’s free market capitalist system which is currently booming.  Bernie’s victories have so far been close calls in small states with a significant lack of diversity.  He won in Iowa with  26.5% of the vote over Buttigieg’s 25.1%.  Thus 73.5% of Iowa’s voters were unenthusiastic about his proposed “revolution” and it’s most prominent feature, government controlled Medicare for all and the end of private health insurance. It also worth noting that since 1972, while the Iowa caucuses winner has gone on to win the Democratic nomination for President 7 of 10 times in “contested races” (no incumbent president in the race), only two, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama went on to win the presidency.

In New Hampshire, where Sander’s was supposed to have a huge advantage based on his residence in neighboring state Vermont, the results were similar.  Sanders won with 25.7% of the vote to Buttigieg’s 24.4%.  Thus the combined votes of the “moderates”, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden, even with the exception of the “queen of plans”, Elizabeth Warren, was still 52.6%, more than double the “revolutionary” vote.

How can this be?  In more normal times with more “normal” i.e. establishment candidates, three victories in a row would definitely be seen as a significant momentum advantage which brings more money, more enthusiasm and a media boost.  But these are not “normal” times and Sander’s is the most far Left major contender in modern history.  

So in the context of uncertainty, important questions remain:

1.  If Sanders goes on to win the nomination by just squeaking by in the remaining primaries, will the revolutionary doubters, the supporters of the so called “moderates”, lose their interest for the national election and stay home; or will the “anyone but Trump” meme overcome their fears and give Sanders their votes?

2.  If Joe Biden somehow achieves a “Phoenix” like resurrection on Super Tuesday and beyond and regains a lead sufficient to win the nomination, will irate and disheartened Sanders believe the nomination was once again “rigged” against their man like in 2016 and stay home on election day in November?

3. If Biden’s Phoenix bird fails to get airborne and Buttigieg stays close to Bernie, will the likely withdrawal of Klobuchar, the only candidate deserving of the title “moderate”, move her supporters to Buttigieg allowing him to edge out Sanders for the nomination?

4. Is the “anyone but Trump” incentive strong enough to overcome Bernie’s or Buttigieg’s basic disadvantages?  Buttigieg is young (38 yrs.) and would be the youngest U.S. President to ever serve. His political resume’ is thinner than Elizabeth Warren’s tomahawk collection.  He was defeated in his 2010 State Treasurer of Indiana run,before wining two terms as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, population 101,000. That’s it.  Despite his relative success among the Progressive Left dominated Democratic primaries, being openly gay is still a problem on a national level. Only 50% of registered voters declared that they were “ready” for a gay president. Thirty-two percent of Independents and twenty-two percent of Democrats said they “weren’t ready”.

Bernie’s “socialist” problem:

Sanders says he’s not a socialist; he’s a “democratic socialist”.  What is a “democratic socialist”? 
Apparently it’s whatever Bernie and his thirty year old sock puppet and campaign participant Ocasio-Cortez says it is. The short academic definition of socialism has always been the “public” (gov’t) ownership of the means of production.”
Sanders was a member of the Liberty Union Party, a socialist party founded in Vermont in 1970.
He was the party’s Senate candidate in 1972 and the party’s candidate for Vermont Governor in 1976.  He went on to become the party’s Chairman until 1977 when he resigned reportedly because of the party’s lack of activity between elections.

While a member in 1971 Sanders advocated for the nationalization of major industries, specifically energy, banking, and manufacturing, as well as state control of Vermont’s public utilities, all of which fit neatly into the definition of “means of production”.  In 1976 he proposed a marginal federal tax rate of 100% for “millionaires and again called for the government of Vermont to seize all public utilities without compensation.  In 1976 he called for the conversion of privately owned manufacturing industries into “worker controlled enterprises”.

In the years since Bernie’s youthful radicalism, he hasn’t changed much. Although he’s tried to soften his approach in the 2020 campaign by emphasizing “free stuff” he remains true to his assault on free market capitalism and the promotion of big government to fulfill most of society’s needs.

In 1981 he expressed opposition to private charities claiming that “Government should take over responsibility for social programs.” In 1987 he defined “democracy” as “ public ownership and worker self management in the workplace.”
As recently as February, 2016 on the far Left website Daily Kos, he declared that “Democracy means public ownership of the major ‘means of production’.  And in December of that year in a quote published in the New York Times, he advocated for politicizing the Federal Reserve, an independent regulatory agency, by creating a Federal Reserve Board made up of “representatives of labor, consumers, homeowners , urban residents, farmers, and small business owners.”

It only gets worse, if one actually takes the time to read Sander’s campaign web site which is a blue print for social and economic disaster.
Here’s just a few items from that site:

Immigration:   “Break up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and stop deportations of illegal immigrants, essentially an “open borders policy”.

Green New Deal: This is Bernie’s rendition of Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic Socialist of America’s plan to bankrupt the federal government. Unlike that plan he leaves out the danger of methane producing “farting cows” but includes actual dollar amounts he would spend to  save the world while destroying the U.S. economy.
Support the Green Climate Fund, an aid program for developing countries to “mitigate” the effects of global climate change.
Cost: $200 billion

“Guarantee health care, housing, and a good paying job to every American.”
Cost: $ unknown

 “100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization of the economy by 2050 by expanding the existing federal Power Marketing Administration to build new solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources.”
Cost: $16.3 trillion

A “Climate Justice Resiliency Fund”to provide grants to racial minorities, elderly, children and other special “victims” deal with the impact of, and prepare for climate impacts”.
Cost: $40 billion

Free electricity for all by 2035 requiring a new national renewable energy power grid.
Cost: $526 billion

Grants to change heating and cooling systems in homes and businesses from fossil fuels to electricity.
Cost: $964 billion

Grants to “low and moderate income families and businesses” to trade in their gasoline powered automobiles for electric vehicles.
Cost: $2.09 trillion

National network of automobile electric charging stations.
Cost: $85.6 billion

Grants for electric school buses.
Cost: $407 billion

Grants to replace diesel commercial trucks.
Cost: $216 billion

Research to “decarbonize industry”.
Cost: $500 billion

Fund public transportation.
Cost: $300 billion

Fund high speed rail.
Cost: 607 billion

Research to “decarbonize” aviation and maritime shipping and transportation.
Cost: $150 billion


While doing this Sanders would shut down the already “decarbonized” electric power generation  nuclear power industry which currently provides 19.4% of the nation’s electricity.

Add to this Sanders’ most prominent policy of free Medicare for all which is estimated to cost $34 trillion over ten years and his free college tuition which is estimated to cost $79 billion per year, his plan to cancel all $1.6 trillion in existing student college loan debt and grant $1.3 billion per year to historically black colleges, and the sheer fantasy of this “democratic socialist’s” remake of the entire U.S. economy should be a stark political reality for 2020 voters.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

FOREIGN POLICY: DEMOCRATS QUALIFICATIONS AND THE LEADERSHIP DEFICIT

The Democratic Party’s nomination campaign has now  thankfully been reduced from its original platoon sized gaggle of “not him again”, “who’s that”, and “you’ve got to be kidding” candidates,  to a still large but more manageable twelve, of which only three are polling in double digit numbers and only six  qualified for the January debate.                                                     
The first six debates have consisted mostly of a combination of the usual “values” platitudes, condemnation of Trump, and an endless argument about the political and economic viability of “Medicare for all”. The seventh just held, was not much different, best exemplified by the fact that the media’s post mortem made the issue of whether Sanders told Warren in a private meeting a few years ago that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency.  He denies it; she says it’s true. If true, Sanders didn’t say he didn’t think a woman “should” be president. He said he didn’t think a woman “could” be president.  This absurd non- issue, attempt by the media to create a politically relevant  “issue” just shows how flaccid and superficial  the whole process had become.  What has been noticeably missing, even in the sixth debate which was supposed to feature the subject, has been any meaningful discussion of foreign policy.

The Constitution awards almost exclusive powers and responsibilities in this area to the President as “Commander in Chief” of the armed forces and chief diplomat with his attendant power to “receive diplomats” and “make treaties”.  The first is a shared power only by the requirements of a declaration of war by the Congress and the largely ignored War Powers Act of 1973 which places restrictions on the deployment of troops without Congressional consent,  and the second, with respect to treaties, which requires a 2/3 approval by the Senate.

Given the preponderance of foreign and national security powers that reside in the office of the President it would seem obvious that an understanding of the candidates positions on the many current issues in this realm as well as their respective backgrounds, level of knowledge and experience, if any, should be examined as part of their candidacy.

The debates, never known for vigorous policy examinations by the journalists who moderate them, have so far shed little light on these important issues and the candidates themselves have shown little interest in the subject.

Of the three front runners , those  polling in double digits, only Joe Biden would seem to have any credentials for foreign policy expertise.  As a Senator from  Delaware for many years, he served as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  As President Obama’s Vice President for eight years, he held a seat on the National Security Council.  If he attended the meetings and played an active role is not known.  Now it has been asserted that he was the Obama Administration’s “point man” on relations with Ukraine, an association he may now regret.
Unfortunately he also has a reputation, summarized succinctly by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates , as getting everything wrong about “nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

A look at Biden’s campaign web site reveals an Elizabeth Warren like blizzard of “plans” which he, like she, promises will solve all the problems Americans face.  Of the eighteen “plans” however, none addresses any of the world’s or America’s foreign policy problems.  Voters have to look elsewhere to see what Biden thinks about what’s going on beyond our borders.

Fortunately the Council on Foreign Relations contacted the candidates and asked a few specific questions about current issues. Not all the candidates responded and since then, some of them have dropped out of the race. But Biden, Warren and Sanders did provide written answers to the questions, a sample of which provide some insights into the candidates knowledge and preparedness to assume the responsibilities of the Commander in Chief and “chief diplomat”.

THE JCPOA, i.e.  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) signed by Obama and from which Trump withdrew.

Biden:

“I would re-enter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers i.e. China and Russia,  to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints.”

 I would take “a redoubled commitment to diplomacy to more effectively push back against Tehran’s other malign behavior in the region.”

Sanders:

“I would re-enter the agreement on day one of my presidency and then work with the P5+1 and Iran to build upon it with additional measures to further block any path to a nuclear weapon, restrain Iran’s offensive actions in the region and forge a new strategic balance in the Middle East.”

Warren:

“If Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear deal, the United States should return as well. If Iran is not in compliance, I will pursue strong and principled diplomacy in concert with our allies to bring both the United States and Iran back into the deal.”
“The JCPOA is only the beginning. We will need to negotiate a follow-on to the agreement that continues to constrain Iran’s nuclear program past the “sunset” of some of its original terms. “

“We also need to address serious concerns about Iran’s policies beyond its nuclear program, including its ballistic missile program and support for destabilizing regional proxies. ”
_______
Biden seems to acknowledge indirectly, that the JCPOA was flawed from the outset.  It contained a “sunset provision” in which the constraints of Iran’s development of weapons grade nuclear material would have to be renegotiated.  It relied in part on Iran’s self reporting of nuclear development sites to the UN Atomic Energy Agency and did not contain any restraints on Iran’s development of long range missile nuclear capable delivery systems.  It also made no mention of Iran’s regional interventions and support for international terrorism.  Reentering the agreement would require the lifting of the harsh economic sanctions imposed by Trump to incentivize a return to negotiations to correct these serious flaws. This would remove any pressure on Iran to agree to more comprehensive terms which they have already said they would never do.
Sander’s and Warren’s  responses are  pure naivete’. They join Biden in thinking that the removal of sanctions as a first step would lead to broader based renegotiations. Russia, is a member of the P5+1 nations and is a partner with Iran in the intervention in the Syrian civil war on the side of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad , and would not be a useful negotiation partner. Reentry on “day one” would simply be a concession to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and would provide huge oil related financial assets to support Iran’s regional ambitions.

Warren’s idea of pressure is “strong and principled diplomacy with our allies”, whatever that is, and she also seems to have forgotten about the other participants in the agreement Russia and China, who are certainly not “our allies”.


NORTH  KOREA:   Question: “Would you sign an agreement with North Korea that entailed partial sanctions relief in exchange for some dismantling of its nuclear weapons program but not full denuclearization?”

Biden:

“As president, I will empower our negotiators and jumpstart a sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others – including China – to advance our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea.”

Sanders:

“I would offer partial relief of economic sanctions in return for partial progress on denucleariztion:” “I will work to negotiate a step-by-step process to roll back North Korea’s nuclear program, build a new peace and security regime on the peninsula and work towards the eventual elimination of all North Korean nuclear weapons.”

Warren:

“Our goal should be the full elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But while we work toward that goal, we must reduce the threat now. “

“We need serious, realistic negotiations to address this threat. As a first step, and in coordination with our partners and allies, I would be prepared to consider partial, limited sanctions relief in return for a strong, verifiable agreement that keeps North Korea from expanding its arsenal or proliferating to other countries. An interim agreement would open the door to negotiations to reduce North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, control conventional weapons, and stop the regime’s crimes against humanity. That’s not only an imperative for our national security, it is the only credible path toward denuclearization.”
_________
Biden’s brief response is a statement without substance and a complete dodge of the question, reflecting a lack of any diplomatic strategy or acknowledgment of North Korea’s goals or negotiating tactics.

Sanders and Warren offer a return to the past by offering “partial sanctions relief” for “partial denuclearization”. Warren’s response is typical of the simplistic and fatuous approach she has to most complex issues. Discussions, negotiations, bargaining and inconsistent behavior by the Kim dynasty with regard to nuclear weapons development has been on-going since December,1985 when N. Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il-sung agreed to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1970), which basically states that non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) will agree to not pursue development of nuclear military capability.

Since then four U.S. Presdents, Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2 and Obama, in cooperation with our allies i.e. S.Korea and Japan, as well as China and Russia/, have been carrying out “serious, realistic negotiations” with the three Kims who have ruled North Korea. These negotiations have included sanctions relief, aid, renewed sanctions in response to blatant violations of the NPT and the negotiated agreements.  All along it has been all three of the Kim’s position that no meaningful progress would be made unless all sanctions were repealed first. Essentially, it has been a fundamental goal of all of the N. Korean leadership to acquire nuclear weapons, live with the resulting sanctions  and become a permanent nuclear weapons state. Warren offers nothing new.
Kim Jong-Un’s motivations are to acquire the international importance that goes with such nuclear power status and to make his regime immune from any possible attempts at regime change. Concessions on nuclear development could also create push back on the part of hawks in the N. Korean military and even in competitors for power in Kim’s own family. Also development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems validates the myth of U.S. aggression which justifies the hardships imposed on the N. Korean people.

Sanders is engaging in simple campaign blather to say he will “ will work towards the eventual elimination of all” N. Korea’s nuclear weapons. As long as China is willing to keep N. Korea’s economy afloat the U.S. should focus on deterrence while making it clear that proliferation on his part is unacceptable and result in even more punitive economic isolation and sanctions. Partial economic sanctions relief could be used as an incentive for de-escalation of tensions and strict adherence in this regard, but there is no reason to think that such a policy will result in complete denuclearization.

RUSSIAN INTERVENTION IN UKRAINE

Biden:

“On the military side, I would provide more U.S. security assistance including weapons  to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. I would also expand the successful training mission for the Ukrainian Armed Forces that was initiated by the Obama-Biden administration.”

“Economically, I would work to increase Western direct investment and support for Ukraine’s energy independence from Russia, particularly if the Nordstream II pipeline is built in the coming year, because this project would severely jeopardize Ukraine’s access to Russian gas.”
“Finally, I would support a much stronger diplomatic role for the United States, alongside France and Germany, in the negotiations with Russia. For diplomacy to work, however, we need stronger leverage over Moscow, and that means working more closely with our European partners and allies to ensure that Russia pays a heavier price for its ongoing war in Ukraine.”

Sanders:

“My administration will make clear to Russia that additional aggression will force the United States to increase pressure, including expanding beyond current sanctions. For now, our main priority should be to work closely with our European allies to help the new Ukrainian government make good on its promises to reform the economy, improve standards of living, and substantially reduce corruption. “

Warren:

“Ukraine faces immense challenges that will require patient, long-term diplomacy and support from the West. We should start by shoring up relations with our EU partners in order to maintain the strongest possible diplomatic front, and by keeping pressure on the Kremlin to encourage changes in behavior. “

__________
Biden at least seems to understand the issues.  The Russian intervention into Ukraine is a complex issue which for several years has been the subject of French, German and Ukraine diplomatic efforts with Russia.  Essentially, Russia has intervened and supported an armed separatist movement in the eastern provinces of Ukraine which is populated by a large number of ethnic Russians. Diplomatic solutions are complicated by the fact that polls show that a majority of the population in the disputed territories want to rejoin the post- Soviet Union Russian Federation. The governments of France and Germany have specific foreign policy/security interests in not allowing Russia to extend its control past its Western borders.
France is leading the diplomatic efforts.  An aggressive involvement by a Biden Administration in the negotiations could complicate the problem and would have to be carefully analyzed prior to its inclusion.

Sanders seems to be saying ‘don’t worry”about the current Russian intervention and conflict, let’s rebuild the Ukrainian economy and tell the Russians, “no ‘further aggression’ or we’ll put big pressure on you’.

Warren response is similar, just more platitudes.  “Long term diplomacy”?  “Shoring up our relationships with our EU partners”. With respect to this problem our relationship with the EU is sound. Russia is the problem. This is a follow on to Putin’s successful annexation of the Crimea.
There is a state of armed conflict currently in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Ukraine’s sovereignty needs to be defended with military assistance by the U.S., France and Germany.  Economic sanctions are already in place against Russia and these need to be strengthened especially in light of the potential completion of the Nordstream II pipeline which will bypass the current pipeline to Ukraine and supply natural gas to the EU through a distribution center in Germany.  As Biden points out and Sanders and Warren seem unaware, this  would allow Russia to cut off Ukraine’s supply of natural gas to force it to make territorial concessions.

WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. TROOPS FROM AFGHANISTAN

Biden:

“I would bring American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term. Any residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would be focused only on counter terrorism operations. We need to be clear-eyed about our limited enduring security interests in the region: We cannot allow the remnants of Al Qa’ida in Afghanistan and Pakistan to reconstitute, and we must destroy the Islamic State presence in the region. Americans are rightly weary of our longest war; I am, too. But we must end the war responsibly, in a manner that ensures we both guard against threats to our Homeland and never have to go back.”

Sanders:

“I would withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan as expeditiously as possible.
“It’s time to end our intervention there and bring our troops home, in a planned and coordinated way combined with a serious diplomatic and political strategy which helps deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid. Withdrawing troops does not mean withdrawing all involvement, and my administration would stay politically engaged in these countries and do whatever we can to help them develop their economy and strengthen a government that is responsible to its people. “

Warren:

It's long past time to bring our troops home, and I would begin to do so immediately. “Redirecting just a small fraction of what we currently spend on military operations toward economic development, education, and infrastructure projects would be a better, more sustainable investment in Afghanistan's future than our current state of endless war. We should enlist our international partners to encourage a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that is sustainable and that protects U.S. interests. And we should redouble efforts to support the Afghan government and civil society as they work to promote the rule of law, combat corruption and the narcotics trade, and ensure the basic rights of all Afghans.”
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Biden appears to miss the point that the underlying problem is the Taliban forces that have ruled Afghanistan off and on since the Soviet Union withdrew its forces in 1989.  Peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the fundamentalist Taliban have broken down in their early stages.  The war against the Taliban is not winnable. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and fought a losing nine year effort to destroy the Taliban’s antecedent Islamic militias ,the Mujahideen.  The Taliban are more centrally organized and reflect the same problems of asymmetric warfare in a rugged and mountainous country.

Sanders’ response is purposely vague:  “Expeditiously as possible”?  “Serious diplomatic and political strategy” ?  “Stay politically engaged” ?  Bernie needs to offer some definitions of these generalities.  He also totally ignores the basic issues: the civil war with the Taliban insurgency which wants to establish an Islamic state in Afghanistan, and the issue of the possible re-emergence of Al Qaeda, the international terrorist organization which launched it’s 9/11 attacks on the U.S. from Afghanistan and precipitated the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Staying “politically engaged” conforms with Warren’s “plan” which is essentially to abandon military assistance and training and rely on others, “are international partners” to solve the problem of the insurgency.
Unless the Taliban finds some kind of motivation to agree to a political settlement which would necessarily grant them significant political power, the conflict will continue and “economic development, education, and infrastructure projects” won’t be possible in a hostile, unstable environment.

 Biden’s plan to stay until Al Oaeda and the Islamic State elements are eliminated requires the cooperation of both the Taliban and the Afghan government and might still take years.  But if successful, it would make possible the claim, even if not entirely true, that the “mission was accomplished” and withdrawal was then fully justified. But the conundrum for the U.S. now, and in the future, is continuing military support for the Afghan government to avoid a complete Taliban victory, or abandon a hopeless enterprise and accept the consequences of endless internal conflict with the ultimate prospect of the establishment of another fundamentalist Islamic state in the region.  Either way, Sanders plan to “strengthen the government” or Warren’s plan to “redouble efforts” to create a viable non-corrupt civil society in what is essentially a failed state without the unlikely cooperation of a murderous theocratic military and political entity is just non-specific 2020 election blather.

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS:  THE TWO STATE SOLUTION

Biden:

“I believe a two-state solution is the only path to long-term security for Israel, while sustaining its identity as a Jewish and democratic state.”
“I will restore credible engagement with both sides to the conflict. America must sustain its ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. Palestinian leaders should end the incitement and glorification of violence, and they must begin to level with their people about the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Israeli leaders should stop the expansion of West Bank settlements and talk of annexation that would make two states impossible to achieve. They must recognize the legitimacy of Palestinians' aspirations for statehood. Both sides should work to provide more relief to the people of Gaza while working to weaken, and ultimately replace, Hamas. And Arab states should take more steps toward normalization with Israel and increase their financial and diplomatic support for building Palestinian institutions.”



Sanders:

“Two states based on the 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. Ultimately, it’s up to the Palestinians and Israelis themselves to make the choices necessary for a final agreement, but the United States has a major role to play in brokering that agreement. My administration would also be willing to bring real pressure to bear on both sides, including conditioning military aid, to create consequences for moves that undermine the chances for peace. “

Warren:

As president, I would take immediate steps to reestablish America’s role as a credible mediator by welcoming the Palestinian General Delegation back to Washington and reopening an American mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. I would also make clear that in a two-state agreement both parties should have the option to locate their capitals in Jerusalem, as all previous serious plans have acknowledged. We should immediately resume aid to the Palestinians and financial support to UNRWA, and focus real financial and political resources on fixing the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. I will oppose incitement to violence and support for terrorism by Palestinian extremists like Hamas. And I will make clear my unequivocal opposition to Israeli settlement activity and to any moves in the direction of annexation of the West Bank.
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Biden’s response includes a lot of “shoulds”, and “musts” which may make sense, but he doesn’t seem to  recognize the complexities of the seventy-two year old conflict whose roots go back to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.  Bernie thinks his simple solution, which has defied negotiations and included wars in 1948, 1956, 1963 and 1967, as well as conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon, would be successful. Hamas, which controls Gaza is a militant, Islamic terrorist organization with armed components, which has denied Israel’s right to exist in its founding documents. It is supported by Iran and shows no interest in a diplomatic solution or in allowing it’s “replacement” as Biden suggests.
The issues of the status of Jerusalem, the “right of return” of Palestinians to Israel proper, and existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank don’t seem to have been focused on by Biden.  Jerusalem, where Warren wants to put a U.S. mission to the Palestinians is currently the capitol of Israel as declared by the government of Israel and by President Trump.  The current political administration in Israel believes that a Palestinian state on it’s borders would inevitably be weaponized and only control over the disputed West Bank can maximize its security. Until a new administration comes about, and advocates  a politically risky position towards a Palestinian state, the status quo is likely to be maintained.

Also, without a change of governments in Israel, Bernie has already squandered his credibility for the U.S. to have “a major role to play in brokering” an agreement by calling Israeli Prime Minister a “racist” and now threatening to block U.S. military aid which has been vital to Israel’s survival through all these years.  Even with such a change, Warren’s stated “plan” is heavily slanted towards accommodating the demands of the Palestinians.  But she doesn’t acknowledge the problem of the lack of a single Palestinian government with which to negotiate. She states opposition to Hamas inspired violence but has no leverage to use to make them agree to a secure Israeli state. Jerusalem, as a capital for two independent and hostile states is fraught with political and practical problems and it’s status, as well as West Bank settlements and possible annexation cannot be dictated by any U.S. President.   Bernie is correct on this; saying any final settlement must be negotiated by a unified Palestinian authority and the government of Israel whose national security is its primary concern and responsibility.

It should be noted that President Trump has just announced that both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his major challenger in the March 2nd general election, General Benny Gantz of the more moderate Blue and White political party,  are both coming to Washington D.C. to discuss the second phase of Trump’s “Peace Plan” for Israel and the Palestinians.  The plan will be released prior to the visits and leaks from “informed sources” indicate that it will be strongly pro-Israel including U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the entire city of Jerusalem and the 100 plus Israeli settlements in the West Bank along with a  highly limited “right of return” for Palestinians wishing to reenter Israeli proper.

The Palestinian Authority which speaks for the West Bank portion of the Palestinian territories not including Gaza, has already said they will reject the new proposal as they did the first part which included substantial economic development in Gaza.  The Trump proposal will probably be enthusiastically supported by the Netanyahu government. But he first must overcome an indictment for alleged corruption in office by a vote for immunity in the Knesset. Then he must put together a conservative coalition government even if his Lukud party wins a plurality in the election.  His challanger, General Benny Gantz  might take a different view of the proposal which essentially would make a Palestinian state in the West Bank an impossibility.

Nonetheless, a new Netanyahu government would almost certainly affirm its claim for sovereignty based on U.S. affirmation even if the peace plan is rejected by the Palestinians.
The Democrat candidates will certainly reject and condemn the proposal but even if Trump is defeated, a new conservative  Netanyahu government will proceed under its terms and make it difficult for a new Democrat administration in the U.S. to reject an official U.S. position after the fact.

Conclusions:

Biden seems to know far more history and details of the foreign policy issues queried by the Council on Foreign Relations.  Sander’s shows little interest, apparently more focused on getting his “socialist revolution” started and transforming the economy and culture of the nation.  Warren is just minimally informed and her constantly mentioned  preference for multi-national “diplomacy” seems to indicate an aloofness and lack of leadership with difficult problems. Foreign policy doesn’t play a role in her election strategy.  Promising trillions of dollars in government handouts has more private citizen appeal than instability in far away places. When forced to address those problems ,she ignores the fact that  Iran, North Korea ,Hamas and Russia and China  are not responsible negotiating participants.  They all have adversarial intent and perceived national interests that run counter to U.S. goals.  Warren and Sanders use “diplomacy” as an escape for a reluctance to the proposal of specific strategies. Thus for them, “diplomacy” becomes a strategy itself, but it isn’t.  Diplomacy is a negotiating process which seeks to identify mutual interests between parties in the pursuit of strategic goals and compromise on other interests or implementation.  Both, or all parties, must have goals and real strategies in mind in order to avoid prolonged and useless conversations with the attendant frustrations and political theater which can deepen the divide.

Ir should go without saying that the roles of Commander in Chief and “chief diplomat” are extremely important components of presidential power. Trump has little experience in this are, but the does now have a three year record in trade relationships and national security. Voters should take the time to examine his record and the qualifications and current positions of his would be replacements which unfortunately, with the possible but uncertain, exception of Biden, seem to indicate a lack of knowledge, a naive dependency on  ununified groups of "diplomatic partners" and a withdrawal from vital U.S. leadership.